The full name of the school is Bishop Wordsworth's Church of England Grammar School for Boys, abbreviated as BWS or as Bishop's, while the pupils are known informally as "Bishop's Boys". The school's motto is Veritas in Caritate, or "Truth Through Caring", and originates from the epitaph of Bishop Wordsworth's father.
In the OFSTED inspection of 2001, the committee reported that "This is a highly effective school. Outstanding leadership creates a climate in which students are very keen to learn. Challenging lessons for all students lead to very high standards."
The school was inspected once again in December 2006 and received the highest grade 1 (outstanding) rating in almost every category.
The foundations of the school came in June 1889, when the bishop of Salisbury, John Wordsworth, announced to his friend Canon Woodall, "I should like to see Salisbury a great educational centre. I should like to found a school which shall be equal to the greatest and best of our public schools." His initial desire that working class boys were not to be admitted caused much controversy. Fees were initially set at £1.10.0d, and boarding fees were £9 per term; however, the fees were raised to £2 in 1894 to meet the unexpected costs of the school. The first year was taught in the Bishop's palace of Salisbury Cathedral itself. Bishop Wordsworth personally donated £3000, which was used to purchase a portion of land in the cathedral close and build the original school buildings. After Bishop Wordsworth's death, the school was renamed to Bishop Wordsworth's School, having been previously known as "The Bishop's School".
In 1905 the school became a grammar school, consisting of the current Chapel Block, and Bishopgate. Until 1928 the school admitted girls, but with the founding of a girls' grammar school (South Wilts Grammar School) in 1927, the school became boys only.
In 1931 a hall, science laboratories and a library were built. By the 1930s, the school had achieved a reputation for pioneering educational work, and in 1936 became a public school, but in 1948 the Governors accepted voluntary controlled status. Boarding at the school in the Bishopgate buildings ended in the 1950s, and the buildings were used for teaching thereafter. During the Second World War, pupils from the Priory School in Portsmouth moved to BWS to avoid the bombing of the city.
The school now educates boys aged 11 to 18, with some joint classes in the sixth form with South Wilts Grammar School. In 2002, a major re-development of the school's buildings began. Since then a new classroom block and drama studio has been followed by a sports hall, new science labs, new languages facilities, a new art school and new technology block.Also a new staff room has been built.
Since 2000 there has been considerable expansion of the sixth form curriculum, with around 15 subjects being part of an extensive collaboration with the girls' grammar school in Salisbury. In 2004 the school became a specialist Language College, and this has led to broadening of the curriculum and further opportunities for overseas trips. In 2008 the school will add a science specialism.
There are four Houses, these are named after previous Bishops of the cathedral: Jewell (1560-1571), Martival sometimes Mortival (1315-1330), Poore (1240-1270) and Osmund (1078-1099). The houses take their crests from the heraldry of the Bishops. All boys are attached to a house when they join the school. Throughout the year there are inter-house competitions including the music festival, sport events and drama. Throughout the year each house is awarded points according to their achievements in the house competitions. At the end of the year, the house with the most points is rewarded with the house cup. The winners of the cup so far have been:
The school has a strong choir, with entrance by audition. The choir regularly sings in Salisbury Cathedral, other cathedrals, colleges and at many other functions. The choir practice four times a week in term time, and in the spring there is a biennial trip to France.
There is a major annual school play, now held in the sports hall, usually either just before or just after Christmas. The plays have been directed for many years by John Cox, and have included (in recent years) West Side Story, Oliver!, Henry IV Part 1 and A Winter's Tale. These, as with many other sixth form activities, involve collaboration with South Wilts Girls Grammar School.
Headmaster Frederick Crossfield Happold, who studied as an undergraduate at the University of Cambridge was awarded an honorary LLD from the University of Melbourne for his pioneering work and publications on education. He wrote a number of books after his time as Headmaster at the school on the subject of religion:
Headmaster Happold was also noted for the foundation of the "Company of Honour and Service". Father Kenelm Foster O.P. wrote "[the Company is] a sort of modernist Grail (for Boys) or Solidarity which Dr Happold founded in 1935 at Bishop Wordsworth's School, Salisbury. This is his nucleus, his 'order', his new aristocracy, which is to permeate England: a little cohort of leaders, of seers, of doers." (Cited in Happold, 1964, pp. 33).
Most recently, former Headmaster Clive Barnett HMI - who left the school in 2002 - has become patron of the charity EdUKaid, a role he shares with the Glenys Kinnock MEP. The UK based charity, with whom Barnett has worked since taking up his new role at Ofsted, "aims to enable the children of the developing world to gain dignity and future prosperity for themselves and their communities by providing education.
1890-1935 Reuben Bracher Esq.
1935-1960 Dr. Frederick Crossfield Happold D.S.O. (Cantab.)
1960-1963 Dr. Sabben-Clare
1963-1974 Mr. RCR Blackledge (Oxon.)
1974-1992, Mr. Glyn Evans
1992-2002, Mr. Clive Barnett (Oxon.)
2002-Present, Dr. Stuart Smallwood (Cantab.)